The quest for the next action hero has been on ever since the Terminator became the Governator. But glaringly absent from the parade of would-be heirs to the throne has been the old-school breed of ass-kicker we grew up with in the '80s, the sword-wielding hero at the epicenter of a world filled with magic. Now, with the long-awaited return of the Conan franchise, Hawaiian-born actor Jason Momoa is poised to change all of that.
The muscular, six-foot-four actor, who recently gained cult popularity for his role as warrior king Khal Drogo in HBO's Game of Thrones, is literally built for the challenge. But it's not all physique. The affable, easygoing Momoa also brings to his new role an immediate likability that's as much a part of his personality as it is a product of the script.
New Times recently sat down with Momoa during a visit to Miami to chat about his upcoming action breakout, Conan the Barbarian 3D, and to even pry loose some hints that'll make Thrones fans giddy with anticipation.
New Times: You never saw the original films growing up.
Jason Momoa: Yeah, I was like 1 year old, and I don't really remember too many movies until I was around 7. It could've been on the TV, but I didn't see it. Star Wars was really huge for me, so I'd run around beating up Darth Vader. But Conan — I don't think my mom would let me watch because of the orgies and sex. I grew up with a single mother, so it was very hard to sneak that kind of thing in the house.
Was doing the movie kind of like getting to be a big kid on set?
Yeah, sometimes we were looking at each other, me and the stunt guys, and we were like, "We're getting paid for this!" It was a lot of fun to hang out with your buddies and create this world and do all these stunts. There was a lot of cool stuff I got to do in this that I'd never be able to do.
Do you think not having been familiar with the originals made it easier for you to play this iconic character in your own way?
Yeah. And that's one of the beautiful things about imagination. When I read a book or I see a comic, it's my imagination. It's my perspective of what I'm reading. And that's the image that comes into my head, so that's going to be my portrayal of that character. It's my paint going on that canvas. So it's my interpretation as an actor of what I read... I think my biggest inspiration is [artist] Frank Fazetta. I look at Frank Fazetta's paintings and I don't see Arnold Schwarzenegger. I look at the comics and I don't see Arnold Schwarzenegger. He did a great job, but we're two totally different things.
Definitely. No offense to Arnold, but your Conan, while still barbaric, is noticeably sharper.
Arnold is an amazing actor. True Lies is one of my favorite movies. [Conan] was his first [big] job, right? So that's awesome. I'm an actor, and I've been doing this for 13 years. So I know what I'm doing and what I'm tackling. And coming off of HBO, I knew how I wanted to play this cat. You liked it, right, and you're a big Conan fan? So there you go!
One thing that doesn't change is Conan is still a tough SOB. And you kind of have to be in that world. Hell, Rachel Nichols comes out in virginal white whooping ass in, like, her second scene. And having Ron Perlman for a dad probably didn't hurt.
Yeah, he's fantastic. Ron's great. I didn't get to work with him that much. But we kinda look alike with the old Cro-Magnon here [laughs]. He's a good choice for my father. But yeah, that's one of the great things about this story... And there are so many [Robert E. Howard] stories. It's got a huge history. So it's been waiting for me, obviously.
From first glance, people might look at your two most recent roles — Conan and Khal Drogo — and think they're more similar than they really are.
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Yeah, they're obviously both from savage races, or however you perceive that. But playing Drogo is infinitely harder in the sense of acting because of his presence. Conan is all action. He's a little younger than Drogo too. But Drogo is a king, man. And then to do those speeches in Dothraki and have that whole language. It was extremely hard. Drogo's character didn't have any action. We put a scene in there to add some of that, but Conan is all action.
There are a few moments that hint rather strongly that there might be plans for more Conan films.
Absolutely! This is the rebirth of the franchise. I mean, that's what I'm here for. There are tons of stories. I've even got my own stories. I'm going to take a stab at number two. I've got my meeting right on August 20, right after the premiere. If we do well, it's perfect. It's a beautiful origin story, and it sets up this world and this character perfectly. Next one is bigger and better.